Oh holy goddamn. I haven't updated this thing in almost a quarter of a year. Oops. In my defense, a lot happened in January and February. No real creative drive, y'know? Well, those particular hardships and things are in the past now. Time to move forward and talk about some stuff that's on my mind. I impluse bought a video game and the things it's done to me over the past five hours of play have given me feelings. Enough feelings to talk about it... by preluding with talk about other games. Yes, it's a good old-fashioned waffle to welcome in 2018 on my blog. In late March. Shush, I know it's been a while. Anyway, today we're going to talk about Fire Emblem... and how I'm pretty sure I'm at odds with the mainline approach the majority of these games take, and what that means and all other manner of things I haven't plotted out yet. This is a journey we'll take together, so let's roll back to the past.
Basically the present now. Four months ago. December 2017. I bought a Switch! One of the games I got with it was Fire Emblem Warriors! I needed a good solid action game I could sink my time into that also wasn't a Wii U port I'd played before, and this fit the bill well enough. Given that the mists of time had obscured how I felt about Sacred Stones, and my attempt to play Fire Emblem Awakening (of which we'll have more about in a moment)... this ended up being the Fire Emblem I really bonded with. Yes. The musou-style action game one is the one I fell in love with. Why? Well, the obvious answer is that it's easier to play and more fast-paced. Instead of the whole tactical element, I could just run around and kill hundreds of dudes with swords and magic. Funny enough, the tactical element did come in to why I loved this game... when compared to another musou-style game I played around the same time. One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 was a game I'd done a few months earlier on my Vita, and it was my first real foray into musou. This grabbed me more, and the tactical element is why. The One Piece game was fairly standard and just let me punch dudes from the franchise in the face. Servicable fun in light bursts... but Fire Emblem Warriors was adapted from a game series rather than a Japanese cartoon. As such, it could add in elements from the series. Weapon triangles, supports, and even a bit of a tactical element in directing the AI members of your team on where to go and what to defend. It was almost like a big action game based on Fire Emblem. Actually that's exactly what it was. I gave it a nice nod on my GOTY list for 2017 a while back, and since then the DLC's come out for it and I've played even more of a metric shitton of it. The final DLC pack just dropped this week, but I haven't really been poking at it. The reason for that, as well as the reason for this post, is the last Fire Emblem game I want to talk about. Let's get into that, then!
Fire Emblem Echoes is a game I bought on sheer impulse about a week and a half ago when there was nothing else really in the store that I wanted in terms of games. If I have this right, it's the third mainline Fire Emblem game since the series got a shot in the arm with its first 3DS arrival, Fire Emblem Awakening. Awakening's a game that didn't really grab me when I tried to play it, which is a shame since I beat TWO hard games to get it. I'm not sure why it didn't grab me. My best guess is it took just a little too long to get going, and instead did the usual Fire Emblem thing of having me fight a bunch of random-ass bandits rather than giving me plot missions. We'll chalk that up as a personal failing, but let's move on to talk about Fire Emblem Echoes... itself actually a remake of the second Fire Emblem game ever made, Fire Emblem Gaiden. Gaiden, in the vein of other Nintendo game sequels from 25-odd years ago like our vegetable Mario 2, Zelda 2, and Castlevania 2, is somewhat of a departure from the mechanics and structure of Fire Emblem. I haven't seen much of Gaiden, but I feel confident in saying that Echoes manages to be even more of a departure from the mechanics and structure of Fire Emblem in a lot of places. This both pleases and upsets me. It pleases me because this impulse buy has quite a few really neat things that I've never seen before in a Fire Emblem game: things that make me excited to play it. It upsets me because this beauty is fleeting, just like those other "departure" games I listed. I grew up with those games, and I love them... but history (and video gamer culture, as it turns out) deemed them to be aberrations never to be repeated. Fire Emblem ended up the same way, going back to its core style for multiple games after Gaiden... but the mere existence of this remake must prove something, huh? History could prove me wrong, and the new widespread appeal of Fire Emblem could lead to these mechanics showing up again in the next game... but for now, let me lay out some of the cool things this game has done to wow me and keep me invested.
There are a lot more little things and odd additions. Statues of the goddess Mila which let you class change whenever you like now... and the game giving you a bunch of blank slate villagers whom you could class change however you liked. I quite enjoyed that freedom, but I've not seen much more of that as I've gone through. Speaking of Mila, another wild thing is Mila's Turnwheel, which gives you a limited amount of actual rewinds on your moves in case you don't like the outcome of an attack or made a mistake. This has been helpful to me, in addition to letting me play on the easier difficulty where characters aren't dead forever if they lose all their health. I cite my numerous hard game clears as reference for me earning this reprieve. Even the way you attack has changed: now your attacks cost a small amount of HP, and stronger attacks cost you more HP. Everything about this whole thing is different, and it's grabbed me. This little impulse buy has me hooked, and I'm slowly poking my way through Chapter 3 and finding more cute mechanics and whatnot. It was well worth the money I paid, but it may turn out to be some sort of summer fling. Revisiting Sacred Stones didn't quite grab me in the same fashion as Echoes has. Mainline Fire Emblem hasn't quite caught my eye yet, it seems. Perhaps I could give Awakening another shot, but we'll see. For now, I have Echoes to enjoy... as frustrating as that singular thing of beauty might be. With games like Zelda 2 or Castlevania 2, there's some leeway in the genre of the exploratory platformer being a thing that exists. If I want to revisit that sort of feeling, I can just fire up one of the numerous recent homages to that style. If I want a game like Fire Emblem Echoes, I have no idea where to look other than Echoes itself. It's a beautiful innovation that has captivated me, but in the end I could just be chasing dreams that will never be repeated. That's awfully poetic in a way, and my frustration with the lack of other ways to get this content only makes Echoes more special to me for it. I'll never play a game quite like Fire Emblem Echoes again, and part of me is okay with that. It means Echoes can sit in my mind, its own unique special little thing. I've said before that I'll always remember when my favorite game ever was this or that, even as new experiences come along... but I'll never forget when Echoes was my favorite game to play, because I don't see anything replicating it any time soon. A bittersweet way to end, but no other ending will do.